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#1 Matthew Buick

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 07:01 PM

Hi, I'm a 15 year old first time director shooting on Micro MV, and I was looking for some Directing tips.
Anything great will be a great help.

Matthew Buick
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:00 PM

Internet forums are good places to get opinions or answers for specific issues, but for very vague, general questions, it would take too much time to go into enough detail.

I will say that one of the biggest mistakes that first-time directors make, the one they often regret the most, is not paying enough attention to the pacing of a scene while it is being played out (usually letting it play too slow), and then being stuck in the editing room trying to pick it up with editing tricks.

An experienced director I worked with a couple of times would often tell the actors that "this scene is a train that only stops HERE and HERE..." (pointing out the key emotional points of the scene)

Another note that director Alexander Mackendrick used to give actors was "sooner, not faster" -- which meant make those emotional choices in the scene quicker, think quicker, but don't just act faster. If the thinking gets sped-up, then the acting will naturally be faster-paced without resorting to just talking faster, walking faster, etc.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:24 PM

In any scene with more than one actor, make sure the actors are listening to each other. Make sure they are not just memorizing and reciting lines off a page, but that they are engaged and reacting. Avoid result direction - i.e. "she is sad in this scene" because nobody WANTS to be sad. That direction's not playable. Instead give them facts or tasks to concentrate on. Other than that, shoot as much stuff as possible.
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#4 Bob Hayes

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 10:30 AM

The one thread that all the great directors have in common is they love movies. Watch your favorite movies over and over again. Ask yourself questions about why they work for you. Get to the point that you know every cut in your head. And as David says its about the dramatic beats of the scenes.
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#5 Matthew Buick

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 07:39 PM

THAT TIP ROCKS!!! Thank you
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#6 Keneu Luca

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 05:49 PM

Every filmmaker makes films for different reasons. Many people say they want to tell stories, but that's not always the priorty for some. I happen to be more interested in truthful human behavior and truthful relationships more then a new or exciting story. That doesn't mean I do not pay attention to story, it just means it is not what most interests me in filmmaking.

What is it that interests you most in filmmaking?

Even if it is not people, characters and actors, you still need to strive for some kind of truth. I believe that you can have a well written script, beautiful cinematography, great music, perfect editing, but if the acting rings false, the whole film fails. On the other hand, you can have not so great cinematography, poor music, not so great editing, but if the acting looks completely real - the film can still work.

I think the reason for this is that cinematography, music, editng and other such elements are stylistic choices. But truthful human behavior is not. You need to establish each charcter and what their relationships are, and then let their actions and interactions unfolded truthfully based on the reality in which you established them.

And this requires truthful actors. Actors who stick to the goal of each scene, but must also have a sense of humor. I believe a sense of humor, among countless other details and nuances, is such an elusive and misunderstood necessity of truthful acting.
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#7 Keneu Luca

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 06:10 PM

But in terms of story, there are certain elements important to consider in revealing a cinematic narrative. Allowing the audience to discover the story. Keeping things hidden for them, allowing them to fill in the blanks for themselves.

This is very complicated stuff and requires intelligence as much as creativity. It really boils down to objectivity. Removing yourself. Keeping in mind what it will be like as the audience watches everything unfold.

When you watch films, take note as to why the director made the choices that he/she did. Why was the scene constructed in such a way. And what other ways could it have been constructed that may have not fully supported the impact and foundation of the narrative.

Edited by Keneu, 05 July 2006 - 06:11 PM.

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#8 Brian S. Miller

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 11:47 PM

Brian De Palma says the number One problem with independent film, is the use of Non-Actors. A friend, the camrea mans cousin, etc.
Use the best Actors you can find, rent, buy, beg, borrow or steal.
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#9 kelly tippett

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 01:59 AM

Hi, I'm a 15 year old first time director shooting on Micro MV, and I was looking for some Directing tips.
Anything great will be a great help.

Matthew Buick


I don't know what a micro MV is, but I'll try to tell you something.

Random tips:

Are u going to be operating the camera too? At your age I would think that you may not have much camera experience so get one that does things automatic. Something you don't have to think on- meaning it adjusts to the lighting right away without you haveing to manipulate any settings.

If you do have to manipulate anything have the camera's shutter at 1/60.

Also make sure there is an external mic. Plug in a mic and run it along a broom stick or a swimming pool pole. Find some pole and you can attach a mic at the end, run the mic cord down the pole and into the camera. At the end of the mic cord there should be a "male end" plug it into the camera's mic hole, "female end." Use tape to secure the cord to the pole so that it doesn not sag. Have extra cord at the end of the pole so that your boom guy can move around with out jerking the camera. You are going to need at least one guy in your crew. A best friend would work. He could hold the make-shift boom mic. Make sure the mic is on always when shooting. Hold it above the actors' heads. Make sure you don't get the microphone in the camera shots or your best friend's shadow.

When looking through the camera make sure you can see peoples' faces. Too much shadow is not good. If lights are an issue, shoot outside. When inside shoot near windows where the window light comes in on the actors. Don't have light behind them or too the side of them brighter than the light in front of them.

There is a lot to know. The more you know the more you can manipulate to your own tastes but until then I hope this helps get you started in some way. Two of the most important things are light and sound. Make sure you have light and clear sound. Then just tell the story.

Some short stuff would be good. A one page script. Don't stray off of it too far. You want to start something you can finish.

Edited by kelly tippett, 24 October 2006 - 02:03 AM.

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#10 kelly tippett

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 02:21 AM

Don't worry about the 1/60th you'd still have to set the exposure to match that. Just use the automatic feature.
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#11 Bill Totolo

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 01:47 AM

A few tips that might help get things cooking:

Give your actors permission to make mistakes.
Create a sense of play.
Explore opposite intentions.
Make your direction as simple and physical as possible.
ALWAYS play the sub-text.

Regarding pacing: If a scene plays slow,
this usually means the actor has been given bland, generic direction.
The actor and director need to explore specific choices in the performance
such as the beats or emotional changes in a scene; intentions; goals, and obstacles.
Once these items have been identified and explored you can make each of these items crisp.
This is better direction than telling someone to perform "faster" or to pick up the pace.
This enables you to give specific direction that an actor can perform. "Pick up the pace" is result direction.
Always look for strong choices. Know what your movie is about and who your characters are, remember a character is defined by his choices under pressure. Character is also defined by action, by what a person does, not what he says.

Good luck.
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#12 Paul Bruening

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 05:29 PM

The previous recommendations are really fine advice. I'll add this perspective: Movies are a queing device. I know that sounds a little odd. It's this way: the veiwer wants to have thoughts and feelings. That's why they are watching in the first place. Therefore, your direction as well as the performers role is to cause thoughts and feelings in the veiwer. You'd think that would mean that the performers should really demonstrate these queing moments in a large way. But, that's not how humans work. If the actor demonstrates an emotion, for example, too grandly, the veiwer will go passive or react to the emotion with another emotion that doesn't match the one on screen. Yea, weird.

What this means... actors must give the veiwer a clue as to what they are feeling in the slightest possible way. Don't let the actors steal the emotion from the veiwer. The actor CAUSES the emotion in the veiwer, not HAS the emotion for the veiwer. It's rather the same concern for the director. The most common reaction shot in the industry is a close up on a relatively blank face. The reason is that the veiwer will place their own emotion on top of that face.

I know folks hate to refer to Freud these days, but it is all a game of transference that you play with the veiwer. They have to BECOME the characters and story so that they can feel everything and think everything therein.
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#13 Mark Allen

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 08:12 PM

Before you get to the shooting or even shot planning - look at your script and ask yourself....

1. What is the fulcrum? Through this movie there will be an oscillation between two equally powerful forces. (If they were not equally powerful, there would not be much drama. Godzilla verses bambi is not very dramatic - instant death.) If you're assigned the script and it doesn't have two equally powerful forces, then find it and manufacture them. The audience must not be sure which force will win. Do not think of it as necessarily being a "fight" - it's a balancing act. Will the relatoinship last or fail?

2. Identify the consequences of each force. Why is it good or bad if one or the other happens. Do not feel as though the consequence has to be "the world will fall into the hands of evil." Consequences that we can relate to on a personal level are very powerful. "He will be alone" is surprisingly powerful.... but keep in mind people will think "oh, but he'll find someone else" - so you'll need to figure out why it matters even more. But you must be very clear on this.

Lastly (for this list) - make sure you know what the movie is "about" - beyond the forces - what is the movie thematically about... is it about racism? honor? trust? death?


Now - start looking at your scenes. In each scene you need to identify the same thing. What is the fulcrum and what is the consequences. But this time, you want to ask yourself "how does this relate to what the the movie is about?" AND "how does the resolution of this scene tip the scale?"

Each scene is going to tip the scale of the outcome towards force A or force B.

Some scenes may place two pennies on the side or force A, but then you may have three scenes in a row that place pennies on the side of force B. If you suddenly have a scene that drops a big gold bar on the side of force A - that's going to feel fake. If the aliens come down and kill all the zombies and then leave... that's fake.




As a director, you're a story teller and good story tellers know how to manipulate drama. Don't lose site of this. It applies to everything.

Now, when you talk to your actors... you do NOT want to explain all of this to them. that can be confusing for them. What they want to know is this:

Where were they coming from? This matters, it's puts them into the midset. Did they just come from the scene of an accident? A lounging day at the beach? a Jog?

Where are they going? Even if they never get there, they had a plan. We're they headed off to a funeral? Heading to school?

What are they trying to achieve? Actors like verbs. They like to know what they WANT and what they WANT TO DO.

So put all together it sounds like this - "You just woke up and crawled out of bed after only sleeping three hours (you were up late working on your music), hard to keep your eyes open, you need to get to class because you've been late 3 days in a row and you don't need one more reason for the teacher to bitch at you. Then your girlfriend stops by and wants to talk about your relationship. She doesn't feel like you spend enough time with her - so you want to make sure that she doesn't break up with you and then get to class as soon as possible."

This is all you would need to tell the actor in this scene. By the way - notice that the hard to keep your eyes open was included in here as a description. Most actors will figure this sort of thing out, but it's a safe time to ask for things like this and suggest them while your setting the scene for them.

You should think abou these kinds of things long before you get to the set. What does it mean to be tired? What does it mean to be upset with your boyfriend? What do you do then? tap your feet? how does this happen? Then don't insist your actors do it - be open to what they do - but you should have some ammunition ready in case they are not doing it convincingly enough.

And if you do find yourself needing to give some specific physical direction - consider doing it like a hypnotist would. don't say the end result. Don't say "your eyes should be about half open," say "your eyelids are heavy, they're hard to lift."


About dialogue. Just make sure that they are speaking to eachother and responding to eachother. Forget your preconceived notions of what the dialogue should sound like.

One thing that's interesting in a rehearsal is to have the actors memorize the line, then look at the other actor in the eyes and say the line right to them. then let it sit. Then have the spoken to actor say back what they heard in their interpretation of how the other actor feels. Then then respond back with their line.

If the lines were:

MANDY
You're up late everynight and not with me!

ROGER
It's only because of the big showcase.

MANDY
Well, Danny is doing the showcase and he calls me every night!


So actorMandy reads her line. actorrRoger says, "You're upset with me." (If that's in the realm of what you're thinking, then move on) actorRoger reads his line, actorMandy says, "you're making excuses." etc. etc. But then let's say that after actorMandy says her line and actorRoger says, "you like Danny more than you like me."

But wait... in reality - this is the first time Roger has ever heard about Danny calling her. You didn't know that when you read these three lines, the actors might not know it either. But if this is necessary to tell your story - it's the kind of thing you want to point out.


Michael Gordon (Academy Award winning director and teacher) once said - a director is a "mirror and friend" to the actor. You are there to help them. Don't try to make them into puppets or it will not work. Try to help them understand what they want and need - where the paradigm shifts for them are (Danny???).


(must get back to work now, but Mammet has a good book called "On Directing Film" which has a lot of good info and is worth reading.)
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#14 Thomas Worth

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 08:35 AM

Another thing to keep in mind is that good actors (the only ones you should use) are going to be more experienced than you when it comes to portraying a character. You should not just start off telling them what to say and how just because you feel you should or because that's the way it's playing out in your head. Make sure your actor fully understands the character and his motivation, and then allow him to employ his experience in developing the character's idiosyncrasies (and to add a personal touch). This is going to improve the performance because the actor is going to be enjoying what he's doing and really connecting with the character. Of course, if his portrayal is incorrect and does not fit the character, then you will need to address it. But frankly, the actor's ability to portray the character should be determined before you begin shooting.

The actor has a job to do, just as the DP, line producer, and script supervisor do. The actors simply supply another essential component of the filmmaking process (albeit a more glamorous one). Let them do their job.
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#15 James McBee

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 12:16 PM

Lastly (for this list) - make sure you know what the movie is "about" - beyond the forces - what is the movie thematically about... is it about racism? honor? trust? death?
Now - start looking at your scenes. In each scene you need to identify the same thing. What is the fulcrum and what is the consequences. But this time, you want to ask yourself "how does this relate to what the the movie is about?" AND "how does the resolution of this scene tip the scale?"



I agree with this, but only to a degree. The best movies are usually almost impossible to boil down to one or even ten things. You should definitely know what your film is about, but it should be very hard to explain. In film school they teach you that you have to be able to talk about your work, and there?s a reason for that?namely that it is expected of you in the industry (oh how I loathe that word). But in some ways I think it feeds into the situation we are in where most films coming out of Hollywood, are extremely sophisticated stylistically but are, to be honest, lacking in depth. People shouldn?t walk away from your film, and say ?that was a film about racism,? or ?that was a film about fear.? They should walk away, and argue about what the film was about. If you want to make simple entertainment, than that?s one thing. But if you want to make the kind of film that academics will study, and that cinephiles will keep coming back to, than you need to create something that is so layered that is hard even for you to talk about. Some of the best directors do the worst audio commentaries/interviews etc, and I?m pretty sure that there?s a reason for that. One way or another, it isn?t easy.


As to my personal recommendation?this might not sound like the most exciting piece of advice, but you should read Stanislavski. Every director should. Most of the advice you?ve gotten so far?especially that regarding objective, and action?comes from Stanislavski originally. So why not go to the source.

Sorry for the long winded response.
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#16 Chris Dingley

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 09:47 PM

Brian De Palma says the number One problem with independent film, is the use of Non-Actors. A friend, the camrea mans cousin, etc.
Use the best Actors you can find, rent, buy, beg, borrow or steal.


I dont by that. soem of the best acting in movies is when the casting director jsut pulls someone off the street,
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#17 Mark Allen

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 03:05 AM

...make sure you know what the movie is "about"...

....I agree with this, but only to a degree. The best movies are usually almost impossible to boil down to one or even ten things...


Keep in mind I'm making a suggestion to a 15 year old first time director. I think there is a much much greater chance for this director to make a film that has no clear focus than one in which the subtle nuances have been spoiled by obviousness.

But to take that concept a step further... I'm totally walking into THEORY and SPECULATION here... you may agree, may not... but the rest of this posting is just there for fodder.

I'm not sure anyone who would be able to really conceive and execute successfully the subtlety of which you speak would ever have to have it suggested to them. By the time one could execute this, I would imagine that they've come to that understanding in advance. That's just a hunch.

That said... when I had just graduated theater school I was adamantly into performance art and abstract theater and was very anti anything that simplified one's movie into a simple concept. As I worked more though I found there is a certain beauty to cohesive thematic ideas. I think it is an extension of the Aristotle unitities. His original unities are completely thrown out the window on most movies.... (unties: the movie would take place 1. within 24 hours 2. at one location 3. eliminate anything not related to the main story.) I think this thematic unity provides what Aristotle felt necessary to bring a completeness to the project.

Also - I think it would be hard for someone to find a movie that I couldn't sum up with a thematic concept....even if you say "un chien andalu" I would say it's "about" being abstract. That was their guiding principle in making it.

Note something... I was not suggesting (even for this poster) that the "about" should be a message like "war is bad" - but just a concept "war"
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#18 James McBee

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 09:19 AM

Those are all fair points. And there is something to be said for keeping things simple on your first few projects. But it?s an easy rut to get stuck in.

And I don?t have any special insight into what Bunuel was after, though I would argue that abstraction is less a theme than a style?Unless the film is about a character feeling chronically abstracted, which I don?t think is the case with ?Un chien andalu.? I think ?8 ½,? would be a better example of that kind of thing.

My point was that ambition is good. I would rather overextend myself, and fall flat on my face, than make a little, modestly successful film, from which neither I, nor anyone else would learn anything. We all know that Orson Welles after making ?Cititzen Kane? was never able to match, much less surpass, his freshman effort. He seemed torn in too many directions at once. But he still made what is largely regarded as the greatest film of all time. I?m not sure that I agree with that assessment (and some would credit Mankiewicz for the film?s success), but Welles was clearly brilliant?and I?ve always believed that his genius had something to do with the fact that he was absolutely brimming with ideas, and for a while at least, had the fortitude to push on with them no matter what anyone else said or did.

So my advice to any filmmaker would be to trust your own instincts. Let other people read whatever they like into your work. It?s a film, not a thesis paper.

Then again, who am I to say?I?m still writing my first feature, and it?s taking me an awfully long time.
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#19 Matthew Buick

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 04:59 PM

Thanks for all tips everyone,

As you may know I've discarded MicroMV in favour of Super 8, and possible a bit of 16mm, I am finding these tips very informative, and I'll probably shoot my first movie with proper characters sometime this summer.

Thanks to al,
Matthew Buick.
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#20 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:55 PM

Brian De Palma says the number One problem with independent film, is the use of Non-Actors. A friend, the camrea mans cousin, etc.
Use the best Actors you can find, rent, buy, beg, borrow or steal.


I don't agree with this actually. If you watch David Gordon Green's "George Washington" you can see fantastic work done with non actors. Working with non-actors is just different than working with pros. Pros can sometimes be a hinderence as well, especially if they've had the "actor" schooled right out of them. Lots of times non-actors end up being much more responsive to a sense of "pretend" and "play". It's a question of casting and how the director is able to change his/her gameplan and strategy to work with pros vs. non-actors.

Now, I'm not sure how you're casting but here's one thing that I'll suggest for either non actors or pros. Let the camera roll as much as you can. Even on walkthroughs, you may find quite a bit that you can use there. Sometimes I would walk back to my DP and just tap him on the shoulder and ask "can you roll here"? As long as the crew was pretty much in place, we'd walk through it and I wouldn't tell anyone we were rolling accept my DP and sound. This did two things for me. ONE: It allowed my crew to work out any issues they had with framing, lighting, or sound. And TWO: It allowed my actors to be a little more relaxed. Sometimes you'll work with actors who, as soon as they know the camera is rolling, tense up.

There's my two cents. :D
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